Brown Water Freaks Out Washington Heights Residents

Washington Heights residents began reporting brown water coming out of their taps around 1 p.m. this afternoon. Resident Victoria Allen, who lives in the mid-160s, said she got home from the gym and found the water discolored when she went to take a shower just before 3 p.m. Her roommate who had recently brushed her teeth said the water had been fine moments earlier. Responding to a concerned text from the two, their super "told us it was a problem with the city water, not the building."

The problem seems to span more than 20 blocks north to south.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection is hazy on what's in the water or when exactly it will be fixed, but told Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez that the problem is related to a "valve operation" at West 179th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

"We didn’t anticipate a pressure issue nor discolored water problem for this operation but again it appears to be associated," a DEP rep wrote in a message that Rodriguez relayed.

A spokeswoman for the DEP said that the brown water is the result of a water main that was shut down for maintenance, that workers are opening fire hydrants in the area to flush the system, and that the water is safe. She said the problem should clear up soon, but declined to say what is turning the water brown or how many households are affected. She also suggested that people experiencing brown water should run cold water for a few minutes to clear it up.

Ummmm this isn't funny - brown water in Washinton heights

A video posted by Clayton Craddock (@claytoncraddock) on

Allen said she has run her tap for five minutes and seen no change, and another local, who started experiencing the distressing discoloration around 2 p.m. at West 170th Street and Haven Avenue, said that he has run faucets for 15 minutes at a time multiple times to no avail.

"Dishwashing is on hold" for the afternoon, the resident said. He found the water odorless, but Allen's roommate said she picked up a metallic smell.

The brown water has also hit Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital. The Columbia facility sent out an email urging staff to "monitor your water prior to using."

Sediment turned East Side tap water brown in 2008, and initially officials blamed an unexpectedly opened valve, but the problem persisted for weeks without explanation, according to a Daily News report.

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where dozens of children suffered lead poisoning and 10 died of Legionnaire's disease after the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, heightened anxiety around the Upper Manhattan event.

The upcoming weekend winter storm is also not doing anything to allay concerns.

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